Bruins ready for a rumble at Madison Square Garden

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Bruins ready for a rumble at Madison Square Garden

WILMINGTON, MA Just three days after ruining the start to their season by handily tossing them a bitter defeat before they were demoralized by the Pittsburgh Penguins on their own home ice, the Bruins know that the Rangers wont be a red-faced bunch of Blueshirts on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Theyre fully prepared for the hornets nest effect waiting for them at Madison Square Garden and know the urgency will be there for a New York team thats now 0-2-0 in a shortened campaign where a bad start could be fatal.

We know their season hasnt started the way they wanted to, so theyre going to come at us with everything theyve got, said Milan Lucic as the Bruins finished up Tuesday practice at Ristuccia Arena before boarding their charter flight for New York City. Theyre a proud team and weve had some great battles over the last few years. We expect nothing less tomorrow night.

This is the first time that weve started the season 2-0-0 since Ive been here, so we want to keep it going. Were looking to put away what weve already done, and then start all over again every time we drop the puck.

In fact it's the Bruins best start in 11 years dating back to the 2001-02 edition of the Black and Gold that started off 3-0-0 on the season -- and boasted current assistant general manager Don Sweeney among it's defensemen corps and had the inimitable Byron Dafoe between the pipes.

Its difficult to explain whats going on in New York beyond some key players that simply dont appear like they were ready to begin the season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was pulled from the Penguins loss, the first time that has happened since October 22, 2011 in Edmonton when the Swedish puck-stopper was having equipment issues, and didnt look sharp last weekend against the Bruins either.

Rick Nash has points in each of his first two games for the Rangers, but its clear the old chemistry isnt quite there yet for a team that won the Eastern Conference and marched to the conference finals last season. With the Bruins feeling on top of the world after a 2-0-0 start at home and the Rangers already feeling the heat while struggling with 4 percent of their season already complete, it should the same kind of playoff atmosphere that kicked up at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Will the Rangers come out with more urgency?

I dont think they will, I know they will, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. When youre that type of team and youre put in that kind of position, you would expect the very best out of them tomorrow.

Its not an easy building to play and weve had our fair share of tough games there over the years. So were expecting a challenge. But nonetheless its an opportunity for us to go into their building and play the best New York team that theyve been so far this season. It will be a really tough test and well be up to it.

Heart-and-soul players like Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh will have their mean faces on, the defense should be paying much more attention to detail after allowing nine goals in their first two games and pride should certainly be kicking in for Lundqvist, he of the .865 save percentage two games into the wild, wacky 48-game regular season.

So put Saturday nights win in the books as a nice opening statement and get ready for the kind of Wednesday night Round 2 that Madison Square Garden has seen its share of in its 45-year history.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats